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There's no evidence that Ernest Hemingway was a basketball fan,
but surely he wouldn't mind if Eckerd College of St. Petersburg,
Fla., used The Old Man and the Season as the theme for its
basketball team this year. The Tritons (the nickname refers to
the son of the Greek mythological god of the sea, Poseidon)
figure to be big tunas in Division II because of two seniors
who fell into coach Jim Harley's net. Of course, recruiting
stories tend to be like fish stories--whoppers, in other words.
So after Harley tells how he landed 6'9", 230-pound center
Kerwin Thompson, who was discovered as a youngster shooting
hoops in his native Trinidad, prepare to settle in for the big
one. That's the story of 6'5" forward Darnell (Action) Jackson,
a 28-year-old former sergeant in the U.S. Army. "He's the only
player in the league who's on Social Security," says Tampa coach
Richard Schmidt. That part of the story isn't true, but Jackson
is the only men's player in the Sunshine State Conference on the
GI Bill.

He's also the only player whose resume reads like a road atlas.
A native of West Virginia, Jackson spent six years in the Army,
during which he was stationed in Germany, Arizona and Texas.
While in Texas, he served at Fort Hood in Killeen and played for
a base team, the Fort Hood Tankers. "I always wanted to play
ball, all my life," he said. But he didn't play college ball
until he was 24, and even that decision included a couple of
stops on the road.

Jackson initially moved to Orlando after his discharge, planning
to play at Seminole Community College for the 1991-92 season.
But when the coach there, Bill Payne, left for St. Petersburg
Junior College, Jackson packed up and followed. That's where he
was spotted by Harley, who says, "Back when Darnell was a
freshman, I wanted him." Last year Jackson transferred to
Eckerd, where he found a home; unfortunately, it was in Harley's
doghouse. Jackson had a know-it-all attitude, which might be
expected from a guy who was in the service while his new
teammates were in junior high school. At one early-season
practice Harley grew so fed up with Jackson's lip that he
thundered, "Darnell, you have to adjust to us. We don't have to
adjust to you." That was language the old sarge could
understand, so it wasn't surprising that after Eckerd won the
regular-season league title, Jackson jumped up in the locker
room and shouted, "Fellas, I have adjusted to you!"

He adjusted so well that he finished the season as the team's
leading scorer, with 19 points per game, even though he didn't
become a starter until the team's 11th outing. But don't think
that Jackson has adjusted his flashy game. "He's the highest
jumper I've ever seen," says Thompson. "And he's a great shooter
from inside or out. At the end of a tie game, Jackson's going to
shoot it. He's one of the fiercest competitors I've ever seen."

That's not what you might expect to find at Eckerd, a small
(1,385 enrollment), private liberal arts college. Academics are
taken seriously at Eckerd; many students go to basketball games
only if there's nothing more stimulating to do. "If there's an
interesting lecture on a game night," says Harley, "we're dead."
That scholarly approach extends to the guys in jerseys: In the
32 seasons that Harley has been the college's coach, all but two
of his four-year players have graduated.

All of which makes it unlikely that Eckerd would be home to a
student who includes playing in the NBA on his list of possible

Yet the Tritons have such a player--and it's not Jackson. It's
Thompson, who calls pro basketball "my dream, what I wake up
every morning thinking about." Thompson's dream may be a long
shot, but he is very athletic and very hardworking and has a
7'2" wingspan. He led the conference in blocks last year,
averaging 3.2 per game.

A mere curiosity as a freshman and sophomore--"Guards would
block my shots, and fans would jeer and laugh," Thompson
says--the former soccer player gained 25 pounds between his
sophomore and junior years. His coming-out party was Dec. 1,
1994, in a 106-79 loss to Indiana State, the Division I program
that once produced a guy who had a nice little career with the
Boston Celtics. "We were all pumped up about playing in Larry
Bird's town, but Kerwin was possessed," says senior point guard
Lateef Duncan of Thompson's 25-point, 16-rebound effort. "That
was his breakthrough game. There was nothing they could do to
stop him."

Thompson's determination shows in the classroom as well. He
carries a B average in engineering, Eckerd's toughest
discipline. "He's either at basketball practice or he's
studying," says Harley. "When he got out of high school, his
parents sent him to vocational school to learn to be an auto
mechanic. It's hard to earn money in Trinidad, and that's
something he could do. He's going to be a success. You wait and

So, apparently, is Duncan, although not in the sport he
originally pursued. Duncan left New York for the St. Pete
climate because he hoped to make the school's powerful baseball
team. "But when I saw they had nine shortstops," Duncan says, "I
decided to play basketball."

At the end of last season, with the old sarge giving new
dimension to the term veteran, Eckerd charged into the NCAAs
with a 20-9 record and hopes of making it to the Elite Eight,
which is as big in Division II as the Final Four is in Division
I. But the Tritons had to play Alabama A&M, ranked as high as
No. 2 in the nation during the season, in the South Regional
semifinals on A&M's home floor in Huntsville. The home team won
75-58, but not before Thompson had filleted A&M's Coata Malone,
a 6'9", 300-pound whale of a center. After watching Thompson
whip Malone in points (26-6), rebounds (12-9) and blocks (4-2),
A&M coach Vann Pettaway stated the obvious: "He was awesome--not
the same kid we saw last year."

The Tritons hope not to be the same team Pettaway saw last
season, even though they were the first Eckerd squad to win at
least 20 games. They hope to be better. "It's up to us," says
sophomore shooting guard Bryan Galuski. "We have expectations to
go further in the NCAAs." If Thompson keeps improving, and if
Duncan runs the offense the way he did last year, and if the old
man keeps adjusting, don't be surprised to see the Tritons in
the thick of things at the end. One thing is sure: They'll have
a good time on the way--Jackson, who is older than two of
Eckerd's assistant coaches, will make sure of that. "We're glad
to have him," says Duncan. "He puts on a show sometimes, and
it's fun to watch."

COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK With Jackson (left) and Thompson on the floor, it will be hard for opponents to overlook the Tritons. [Darnell (Action) Jackson and Kerwin Thompson]

COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS HALL/NCAA PHOTOS Gilbert has Southern Indiana on a title track. [Chad Gilbert]

Team (1994-95 Record)

1 Southern Indiana (29-4) With four starters back, Screaming
Eagles should soar to second straight national championship

2 Cal State-Bakersfield (20-8) Transfer Kebu Stewart, UNLV's
top scorer and rebounder last season, joins the Roadrunners

3 Alabama A&M (29-3) Last season the Bulldogs' 18-game winning
streak was ended by Alabama State in February

4 Saint Rose (N.Y.) (25-6) All starters, including 7'2",
295-pound Garth Joseph (12.8 rpg), are back from solid squad

5 Virginia Union (26-5) D is the key: Center-forward Ben
Wallace blocked 111 shots last season

6 Indiana (Pa.) (29-2) All-America Derrick Freeman is second
player in school history to score 1,000 points in two seasons

7 UC Riverside (26-6) The Highlanders came within 2:20 of
winning last season's national championship

8 Saint Anselm (N.H.) (26-5) The Hawks return seven of
their top eight players from last season

9 Eckerd (Fla.) (22-10) In his 32nd year in St. Petersburg,
coach Jim Harley gets his best shot at the national title

10 Northern Kentucky (25-4) The Norse beat national-champ-to-be
Southern Indiana twice in '94-95

11 New Hampshire College (27-6) Mark down the Penmen for a
fifth straight trip to the Sweet 16

12 South Dakota (20-7) Point guard John Hemenway set a
school record for assists with 197 last season

13 Alaska-Anchorage (16-11) The Seawolves have beaten
at least one Division I school for 10 straight years

14 Seattle Pacific (20-9) Last season the Falcons made first
appearance in regional finals in 23 years; will make another
this year

15 Kentucky Wesleyan (23-6) Panthers have longest current
streak of 20-win seasons (15) in Division II

16 Norfolk (Va.) State (27-6) Rules require Spartans to miss
postseason play as they head for Division I next season

17 Philadelphia Textile (26-5) Rams' last home loss came at the
hands of Franklin Pierce on Dec. 1, 1990

18 North Dakota State (22-8) Ten newcomers will have to come
through to keep the Herd thundering

19 Millersville (Pa.) (26-4) Marauders have dropped just seven
regular-season home games since February '85

20 California (Pa.) (23-7) Vulcans live long and
prosper with point guard Candice Pickens's 7.9 assists per game

21 Fort Hays (Kans.) State (24-7) Center Alonzo Goldston's 57.7%
from the field made him regional MVP in '94-95

22 Morningside (Iowa) (24-8) Only a tough schedule can keep the
Chiefs from second straight North Central Conference title

23 Regis (Colo.) (25-5) Forward-center Joe Cronin had enrolled
at Air Force but then transferred to Regis

24 Central Oklahoma (23-7) Bronchos led Division II in scoring
last season, averaging 107.3 points per game

25 Missouri Western (26-5) Still formidable despite loss of
Darroll Wright, only Division II player to apply for NBA draft
last season


Southern Indiana senior forward Chad Gilbert, named MVP of the
Great Lakes Region, averaged 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game